Students, staff settle into Newcastle's new Early Childhood Center
Newcastle school for prekindergarten through first grade was financed as part of $49.5 million bond approved by Newcastle school district voters in 2009.
NEWCASTLE — Principal Joel Read sat in his spacious office at Newcastle's new 93,000-square-foot Early Childhood Center on a hot day in August, hoping it would get cooler so he could see children playing outside.
Doing so would be easy, because windows — almost too many to count — are among the more enjoyable features of the $14 million building for prekindergarten through first grade.
“The view from the library is amazing,” said Read, who began his tenure with the Newcastle Public Schools this year, coming from Frederick.
The view he was referring to was one of two AstroTurf-covered playground areas. Playgrounds and windows are part of why faculty and administrators are proud of the colorful and brightly-lit Early Childhood Center that welcomed its first group of students Aug. 15.
“It is so nice to have a place for everything,” transitional first-grade teacher Sharon Tompkins said. “We had no storage in the old building. We have places for crayons, everything. We have new computers. It's really nice.”
Tompkins, a Newcastle kindergarten teacher for 14 years, said her students were acting “different” on the first day of class, apparently in awe of the new, clean surroundings.
Color coding makes it easy for the students to find their way around.
“We haven't had anyone lost yet,” Assistant Principal Kristi Ferguson said on the second day of school.
Read said he is impressed with the “good ideas” designed into the new school that was financed by a $49.5 million bond approved by Newcastle school district voters in 2009.
Among the special touches he pointed out are restrooms outside the playground areas so children don't have to re-enter the main part of the building until recess is over, and a hand-washing station outside the cafeteria.
The school has four designated safe rooms — significant in a community still recovering from the May 2011 tornado that destroyed more than 40 homes and damaged the nearby elementary school. Each safe room is equipped with restrooms, sinks and water fountains, and can be used as a classroom if necessary.
The building includes areas for special services, including speech and occupational therapy, a nurse's station, and a spacious gymnasium that Read said will be used often by community and church groups.
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